Photographers pay tribute to the iconic Doll House on its way out

23 August 2017 - 12:45 By Sylvia McKeown
Sheila and Tim Hart round off a meal at the Doll House with a milkshake. The much-loved roadhouse, on Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg, is soon to be demolished.
Sheila and Tim Hart round off a meal at the Doll House with a milkshake. The much-loved roadhouse, on Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg, is soon to be demolished.
Image: Alon Skuy

One of South Africa's oldest and most iconic roadhouses, The Doll House on Louis Botha Avenue in Highlands North, Johannesburg, will soon be no more. The roadhouse is to be demolished and, to celebrate the life of a Johannesburg icon and the end of an era, a number of photographers have been commissioned to pay tribute to its history.

Organisers Marc Shoul and Matthew Krouse say: ''This veteran food and hangout venue is closing, so we at the Roadhouse initiative are hosting the closing bash, one that will be remembered for years to come. Doll House will serve up food and drinks the whole night long accompanied by a mini market. Security will be right and tight."

Sylvia McKeown caught up with some of the photographers.

JODI BIEBER

What do you snack on while working?

I don't eat when I am working, but cold sparkling water makes me happy. I'm also happy to sit in the shade at an informal corner cafe and have an ice-cold Coke.

Your fondest memory of the Doll House?

The toasted chicken mayonnaise.

The end of the Doll House is an iconic moment in the city. What's the most memorable moment of closure you've experienced working on a project?

The response to my photograph of Bibi Aisha, the young Afghan woman whose husband's family held her down while he cut her nose and ears off.

It ran on the cover of Time Magazine in 2010. The picture won the coveted World Press Photo award, but more importantly Aisha was given a new life in the US and received reconstructive surgery. She now lives with an Afghan American family.

I was invited to 20 countries that year to present my photographic projects to universities, the UN , to the media and at the opening of the World Press exhibitions all over the world.

 A patron at the Doll House tucks into her ice cream.
A patron at the Doll House tucks into her ice cream.
Image: Alon Skuy

MARC SHOUL

What do you snack while working?

Camel Blue (if you can call that a snack) and biltong.

Your fondest memory of the Doll House?

At one stage the Doll House had a bar attached to it. A bunch of mates and I went there after going to see a 2010 World Cup game and got a bit loose.

But growing up in Port Elizabeth our family went religiously to the Red Windmill roadhouse on the weekends as well as during the week - the toasted steaks were a real treat for me. We'd eat them and then jump around the rock pools at Hobie Beach.

The end of the Doll House is an iconic moment in the city. What iconic moment of closure have you experienced working on a project?

I remember doing a portrait of a man for my documentary series of photographs on a niche element of South African society, exploring suburbs and cities in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng.

The series is called Beyond Walmer and I thought, okay I've seen this before, I've heard this story before, I've got to move on now.

DALE YUDELMAN

What do you snack on while working?

Depending on the time and location either an almond croissant and cappuccino or a couple of bananas.

Your fondest memory of the Doll House?

I grew up in Joburg during the 70s and 80s. The Doll House was our Facebook of that era - a place to meet, greet and catch up on the latest gossip while sipping on delicious double-thick malted milkshakes.

The end of the Doll House is an iconic moment of closure for the city. What iconic moment of closure have you experienced working on a project?

Winning the inaugural Ernest Cole Award for documentary photography in 2011 - which culminated in a book and touring exhibition called Life under Democracy.

The Doll House Roadhouse, on Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg.
The Doll House Roadhouse, on Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg.
Image: Alon Skuy

PAUL SHIAKALLIS

What do you snack on while working?

When I'm doing post-production I eat apples, bananas and sunflower seeds. When I'm shooting, it's just water.

Your fondest memory of a roadhouse?

While studying photography in Pretoria, a couple of friends and I would frequent the roadhouse in Colbyn on old Church Street. A burger and chips and a milkshake was typically what we ordered.

The end of the Doll House is an iconic moment of closure for the city. What iconic moment of closure have you experienced working on a project?

My dad lived and socialised in Hillbrow in the 70s; he used to talk about the ''good old days". He spoke about the clubs, the bars, the coffee shops and how clean, cosmopolitan and Eurocentric it was. In my project Hotel Hillbrow I explore Hillbrow nightlife and the people who work and frequent the bars. Some of the venues my dad spoke about still stand in their original location. It's quite a surreal experience to get a sense of nostalgia from a place one has never been to, but has heard so much about.

• The party and exhibition takes place on Saturday, 26 September from 6pm till late.

• This article was originally published in The Times.

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